1. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets, Point Guard (2)
might have been was the biggest all-star snub in 2015-16 as the fifth-year pro turned in the best season of his blossoming career. He scored a career-best 20.9 points per game, setting new career highs in true shooting percentage (.554), effective field goal percentage (.495), offensive rating (112), win shares (9.9), rebounding (4.4) and three-point shooting (.427).
Kemba also maintained a nearly 5:1 assist to turnover ratio—leading the Hornets to their first playoff victory since 2002. Walker was simply sensational in the seven-game series against the Heat, taking over in crunch time and nearly willing Charlotte to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The superstar guard who led UConn to its third national championship has the Hornets on the rise in the East and certainly appears to be developing into one of the game's premier point guards. He did have his meniscus surgically repaired after the season but there is no denying Walker is the top Husky in the association heading into the 2016-17 campaign.
2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, Center (1)
This is the first time in the brief history of these power rankings that Drummond hasn't occupied the top spot. The big man is certainly deserving, putting up career highs in points (16.2 per game) and rebounding (14.8 tops in the NBA).
Drummond made his first all-star appearance in 2015-16, leading the league with 66 double-doubles, 12 more than the next closest player Russell Westbrook. However, while Drummond remains a force in the paint and on the glass, it was down year from the field. His usage rate (24.1) was the highest of his career which may explain some of the inefficiencies but Drummond saw his true shooting percentage dip to .499 while he shot a career-worst .355 from the free-throw line. Maybe he needs to go underhand from the charity stripe but until those numbers improve, he'll be a liability late in games.
3. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings, Forward (3)
Walker, Drummond and Gay are carrying the UConn torch the highest in the NBA, but with Gay stuck in the dumpster fire that is Sacramento we often overlook the forward's talents. If nothing else, Gay remains a solid wing, arguably the most talented position in the entire league. He was solid this season once again, averaging 17.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 1.7 assists.
As has been the case his entire career, Gay frustrates observers who want so much more from someone with his athletic talents. With a new regime in place in Sacramento, maybe Gay gets moved this offseason—ideally to a contender who will get the most from him. Another wasted year with the Kings would be such a bummer.
4. Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte Hornets, Forward (4)
It looked like this was going to be the year Lamb Shake finally broke out and started capitalizing on the talent we all knew he had when he was drafted 12th overall in 2012. Lamb struggled to get consistent run in his first three years in Oklahoma City, but was traded to the Hornets and earned a three-year, $21 million extension this offseason. But unfortunately, the results were a little underwhelming.
Lamb did average career-best 8.8 points per game with a .506 effective shooting percentage in 18.6 minutes per game. Lamb's per 36-minute averages are strong but the Hornets have a log jam on the wing in Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum. With Lamb signed on the cheap for the next two seasons, expect more minutes and more production as Charlotte looks to build a contender in the East.
5. Charlie Villanueva, Dallas Mavericks, Forward (7)
Villanueva moves up two spots in the power rankings thanks to his ability to do what the rest of the NBA struggled to do all year long: slow down Russell Westbrook—sort of. Most probably didn't know Charlie was still in the league until the first round of the Western Conference playoffs when he crawled off the bench to break up Westbrook's pregame hip-hop-abs inspired dance routine.
It doesn't matter that he only averaged 5 points and 2.5 boards a game, when you hit Westbrook with "if you want to go dancing, stuff like that, go to a night club. Go to a club and dance. Go to Dancing with the Stars and be a dancer. You want to battle dance, we can battle," you move up the power rankings.
6. Caron Butler, Sacramento Kings, Forward (5)
Butler played in just 17 games this season averaging a career-low 3.7 points per game. Under contract for one more season, the end is near for Butler. But when Mark Wahlberg is turning your memoir into a movie and UConn is adding you to the Huskies of Honor, you're still clearly the man.
7. Shabazz Napier, Orlando Magic, Point Guard (6)
Napier was moved to Orlando in the offseason, looking for a fresh start after a rocky rookie campaign with the Heat. As the third point guard minutes were obviously going to be hard to come by and with a defensive-minded head coach in Scott Skiles, Bazz was in a tough spot. His minutes were cut in half and Napier was statistically worse across the board in his second year.
With two years left on his contract, Napier might not be long for this league and should probably thank LeBron James for getting him a guaranteed deal by getting drafted in the first round. (Or at least try to get traded to Cleveland)
8. Jeff Adrien, Free Agent, Power Forward (8)
Adrien couldn't crack an NBA roster this season and it would appear the wheels have totally come off for the undersized big man. He was arrested a few times in a span in two months, once for allegedly stealing a Mercedes from a valet and taking it for a six-hour joy ride. Waived after just three preseason games with the Pelicans back in September, we can only hope Adrien gets things in order before worrying about hoops again.